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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Wednesday - May 06, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Verifying safety of berries on a red mulberry tree in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I think I have a red mulberry tree on a newly purchased property. The property sits on Lake Austin and the tree is at least 40 feet tall with red fruits about an inch long that look like skinny blackberries. How do I verify that these are mulberries before eating them? Are there any potentially poisonous berries that look similar?

ANSWER:

We mulled for a couple days on how to search for a potentially poisonous berry that might look like a mulberry. Without knowing what you actually have, it's kind of hard to do that. This USDA Plant Profile county map shows that Morus rubra (red mulberry) does grow in Central Texas.

We are going to give you several pictures and descriptive information on the Morus rubra (red mulberry). Follow the plant link and read the description in our Native Plant Database. Also, note that unripe fruit and the milky sap from all parts of the tree have low toxicity if eaten. If you still can't decide if your tree is a red mulberry, go to our Plant Identification site for instructions on how to send us a picture. Until it has been identified, we would advise not trying to eat the fruit from it. More websites with information:

Virginia Tech Department of Forestry red mulberry

Vanderbilt University Morus rubra

About.com: Forestry How to Manage and Identify Mulberry - this site mentions that the red mulberry frequently interbreeds with the white mulberry, which is native to China. The site also warns that the berries are favorite foods of birds and squirrels, and that the tree is messy.

Pictures from our  Gallery section of the Native Plant Database:


Morus rubra

Morus rubra

 

 

 

 

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